Thursday, January 29, 2009

loving Lilly's law.

"[W]e must recommit ourselves 
more broadly to ensuring that 
our daughters have the same 
rights and opportunities 
as our sons."
- President Barack Obama, 1.22.09

Apparently, Mr. President ain't just whistling Dixie with his moving feminist rhetoric (OK, poor choice of idiom, but you know what I mean).

Today, the President signed his first bill into law: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Named for an Alabama woman who, at the end of a 19-year career with the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Plant Company, complained that she had been paid less than her male counterparts during her entire tenure with the company. A court ruled that she had been discriminated against, but the U.S. Supreme Court tossed the case, ruling that she should have filed her lawsuit within 180 days of the date she received her first less-than paycheck from Goodyear.

The new law resets the six-month clock every time a worker receives a paycheck. Congress actually tried to pass a similar measure two years ago, but the Bush administration opposed the bill and Senate Republicans killed it.

The President was joined at the bill signing ceremony by women from both sides of the political aisle, as well as Ms. Ledbetter herself, now 70 and part of feminist history. First Lady Michelle Obama spoke afterward at a reception in the State Dining Room.

"It is fitting that with 
the very first bill I sign - 
the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act 
- we are upholding one of 
this nation's first principles: 
that we are all created equal 
and each deserve a chance 
to pursue our own version 
of happiness."
- President Barack Obama, 1.29.09

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

laughed lately? if you've got 5 minutes, then this is for you.

Ellen Degeneres often features hilariously absurd audience-participation games on her talk show, many derived from those wacky Japanese game shows. This one, Blindfolded Musical Chairs, was a viewer's idea - I was miserably sick at home, alone, and watching it caused me to laugh aloud for a solid two or three minutes.

Must-share TV:

Great idea for your next party!! :D

Sunday, January 25, 2009

it's only words . . . or is it?

An article I came across in a recent issue of body + soul magazine (*love* this pub) talked about the power of words, and how replacing negative ones (never, no, bad) with positive ones (can, will, good) - a la affirmations - is almost universally touted among self-improvement gurus as one way to a happier life.

I agree to some degree - I definitely believe your thoughts help shape your life, and your vocabulary, both in your head and on your lips, clearly helps shape your thoughts. The article's author went a little further, focusing in on not the blatantly bummifying words, but the subtler, sneakier words that may be sabotaging you surreptitiously.

Her list of five words worth dropping included successful, should, nice, never and busy.

My favorite of the five was busy. Her rationale: "It's almost a status thing, a contest to see who's busier than whom, and whoever's more crazed wins. . . . None of us can know who's actually busier than anyone else. I think we should all just own up to the fact that we're busy, and if we're lucky, then we'll stay that way. Being busy, after all, means we're active, vital and needed. So let's stop saying it to each other over and over."

Amen, sister.

So this year, I'm going to try to quit answering the question "How are you?" with busy, and try to stop the busy talk as much as possible.

And I've been thinking over other words I might want to part ways with in 2009 . . .

stress: Along the same lines as busy, stress is just a natural element of life. It means we're experiencing change, facing challenges, caring. What would life be without that? Boring and meaningless, that's what. So let's stop talking about it and just deal with it as healthily as we can.

hurry: I do way too much of this, and I force my kids to do too much of it, too. I want to slow down a little, which means doing less (see busy, above) in order to create more time and space around our lives.

sleep-deprived: Frankly, I wear my sleep deprivation as a badge of honor even though I know it's a bonafide physical, psychological and emotional concern. This is a condition I've got complete control over, if I choose to exercise it. I'm choosing to do so now. And if I fall back into my bad sleep habits, I'll at least try not to raise the resulting condition as a recurring conversational topic. 

So, what's some verbiage you're ready to vault from your vocabulary?? Do share.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

what a week.

I realize I've been strangely silent for someone so psyched about the official arrival of the new Leader of the Free World (OMG, BHO!!!!)

The truth is, I've been sick for two solid weeks as of today, and not just garden-variety sick, but stricken - first with what felt like a near-death ear infection (ear infection?? what am I, four?), then with either another villainous virus or what we affectionately refer to here in Central Texas as Cedar Fever. Whatever one calls it, a nose by any other name would still be rendered miserably smell-less, runny and raw.

Enough gorey details. The point is, while I've been emotionally elated, I've been physically (and mentally) preoccupied with suffering and healing (update: at this writing, the former is still leading, but the latter is finally gaining ground). And it's difficult for me to write much worth reading when my head is so very full of gunk.

So here, for posterity if not for prosaic prize, are some of my thoughts about this most amazing week in which to be an American:

1. Inauguration Day began for me by sending my kids off to school wearing Old Navy American flag tees, my recent morning mantra ringing behind them, "It's a new day for America!!".

2. My husband and I treated the day as a national holiday (which it should have been!), watching ABC's Inaugural coverage from 8:30a to 5:30p, pausing only for lunch and bathroom breaks.

3. I burst into tears just as Obama was about to walk out onto the balcony. He was standing there, shadowed yet clearly ready, and my only thought was, Thank God - he has finally arrived.

4. I *loved* Aretha's hat. Big, bold hats are worn by many African-American women to celebrate special occasions. And she looked like just what she is - a gift - bringing new meaning and soul to the words she sang: Let music swell the breeze and ring from all the trees sweet freedom's song. God save the Queen (of Soul).

5. Did you see Obama's sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, utterly undone following the oath? Such a sweet showing of sibling joy and pride.

6. If the current U.S. population is about 300 million, and about 2 million people were at Obama's Inauguration, then essentially, 1 of every 150 Americans were there. That's incredible.

7. Poor Teddy Kennedy. What poor timing for a seizure - only halfway through lunch and missed the whole parade. (Seriously, thank goodness he's okay, all things considered.)

8. During the parade, we laughed and laughed at Biden's little grandkids up on Craig Robinson's (Michelle Obama's college basketball coach brother) lap in the viewing stand, each wildly waving a flashlight up at his smiling face.

9. The day's most frequently recurring thought: BRRRRRRRR.

10. Seeing Obama give the shaka, or "hang loose" sign, to the marching band from his Hawaiian prep school, Punahou, was almost as cool as seeing him return salutes to U.S. military marching by.

11. We picked our kids up from afterschool and went to Mangia Chicago (note the theme) Stuffed Pizza for supper. We ordered the Michelle's Special pizza (picante sauce rather than regular tomato, chicken, spinach and mushrooms) and toasted America's New Day.

12. I dug Michelle's Inauguration ensemble (typically elegant, a little glam). I wasn't as wild about her inaugural ball gown - I'd have preferred something more form-fitting. But she didn't ask me.

13. I teared up again during the First Couple's first dance of the evening, at the Neighborhood Ball, Beyoncé serenading them with a stunning - and again, newly meaningful - version of Etta James' classic, "At Last." Beautiful.

14. We stayed up until the wee hours watching coverage of all ten balls visited by the Obamas, despite the Groundhog Day quality it assumed about halfway through the night - him stepping upon and her adjusting the troublesome train of her dress, and their trademark twirl during the ballad's bridge.

I guess we just didn't want it all to end.
But of course, it hasn't. It was just the beginning.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

from daughters to daughters.

History will have the last word regarding the presidency of George W. Bush, but one thing has become rather surprisingly clear over the past few years - his daughters, twins Jenna and Barbara, despite some youthful indiscretions (and who among us will cast that first stone?), have grown into lovely, gracious and compassionate young women.

Proving the point, Jenna and Barbara wrote this beautiful letter of presidential-daughter wisdom to the pair of incoming White House pixies, Malia and Sasha Obama, published earlier on in the week in the Wall Street Journal:

Sasha and Malia, we were seven when our beloved grandfather was sworn in as the 41st President of the United States. We stood proudly on the platform, our tiny hands icicles, as we lived history. We listened intently to the words spoken on Inauguration Day - service, duty, honor. But being seven, we didn't quite understand the gravity of the position our grandfather was committing to. We watched as the bands marched by - the red, white, and blue streamers welcoming us to a new role: the family members of a President.

We also first saw the White House through the innocent, optimistic eyes of children. We stood on the North Lawn gazing with wonder at her grand portico. The White House was alive with devoted and loving people, many of whom had worked in her halls for decades. Three of the White House ushers, Buddy, Ramsey and "Smiley," greeted us when we stepped into her intimidating hallway. Their laughter and embraces made us feel welcome right away. Sasha and Malia, here is some advice to you from two sisters who have stood where you will stand and who have lived where you will live:

- Surround yourself with loyal friends. They'll protect and calm you and join in on some of the fun, and appreciate the history.

- If you're traveling with your parents over Halloween, don't let it stop you from doing what you would normally do. Dress up in some imaginative, elaborate costume (if you are like us, a pack of Juicy Fruit and a vampiress) and trick-or-treat down the plane aisle.

- If you ever need a hug, go find Ramsey. If you want to talk football, look for Buddy. And, if you just need a smile, look for "Smiley."

- And, a note on White House puppies - our sweet puppy Spot was nursed on the lawn of the White House. And then of course, there's Barney, who most recently bit a reporter. Cherish your animals because sometimes you'll need the quiet comfort that only animals can provide.

- Slide down the banister of the solarium, go to T-ball games, have swimming parties, and play Sardines on the White House lawn. Have fun and enjoy your childhood in such a magical place to live and play.

- When your dad throws out the first pitch for the Yankees, go to the game.

- In fact, go to anything and everything you possibly can: the Kennedy Center for theater, State Dinners, Christmas parties (the White House staff party is our favorite!), museum openings, arrival ceremonies, and walks around the monuments. Just go. Four years goes by so fast, so absorb it all, enjoy it all!

For four years, we spent our childhood holidays and vacations in the historic house. We could almost feel the presence of all the great men and women who had lived here before us. When we played house, we sat behind the East sitting room's massive curtains as the light poured in illuminating her yellow walls. Our seven-year-old imaginations soared as we played in the enormous, beautiful rooms; our dreams, our games, as romantic as her surroundings. At night, the house sang us quiet songs through the chimneys as we fell asleep.

In late December, when snow blanketed the front lawn, all of our cousins overtook the White House. Thirteen children between the ages of two and twelve ran throughout her halls, energized by the crispness in the air and the spirit of the season. Every room smelled of pine; the entire house was adorned with thistle; garlands wound around every banister. We sat on her grand staircase and spied on the holiday dancing below. Hours were spent playing hide-and-go-seek. We used a stage in the grand ballroom to produce a play about Santa and his reindeer. We watched as the National Christmas Tree was lit and admired the chef as he put the final icing on the gingerbread house.

When it was time, we left the White House. We said our goodbyes to her and to Washington. We weren't sure if we would spend time among her historical walls again, or ever walk the National Mall, admiring the cherry blossoms that resembled puffs of cotton candy. But we did return. This time we were 18. The White House welcomed us back and there is no doubt that it is a magical place at any age.

As older girls, we were constantly inspired by the amazing people we met, politicians and great philosophers like Vaclav Havel. We dined with royalty, heads of states, authors and activists. We even met the Queen of England and managed to see the Texas Longhorns after they won the National Championship. We traveled with our parents to foreign lands and were deeply moved by what we saw. Trips to Africa inspired and motivated us to begin working with HIV/AIDS, and the rights of women and children all over the world.

Now, the White House ballrooms were filled with energy and music as we danced. The East sitting room became a peaceful place to read and study. We ran on the track in the front lawn, and squared off in sisterly bowling duels down in the basement alley.

This Christmas, with the enchanting smell of the holidays encompassing her halls, we will again be saying our goodbyes to the White House. Sasha and Malia, it is your turn now to fill the White House with laughter.

And finally, although it's an honor and full of so many extraordinary opportunities, it isn't always easy being a member of the club you are about to join. Our dad, like yours, is a man of great integrity and love; a man who always put us first. We still see him now as we did when we were seven: as our loving daddy. Our Dad, who read to us nightly, taught us how to score tedious baseball games. He is our father, not the sketch in a paper or part of a skit on TV. Many people will think they know him, but they have no idea how he felt the day you were born, the pride he felt on your first day of school, or how much you both love being his daughters. So here is our most important piece of advice: remember who your dad really is.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

we are one playlist.

No, no, not "we are one playlist" - if we are one something, then I'm fairly sure it's not a playlist (though there are worse things).

Here's my latest ipod playlist, inspired by today's We Are One Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial. The songs are the same ones performed at the concert - though mostly by different artists, since many of the original recording artists are long gone - through track 15; the final four songs I added just for a "change."

Uplifting listening as we launch a wonderous week.

1. The Rising - Bruce Springsteen
2. Lean on Me - Bill Withers
3. A Change is Gonna Come - Sam Cooke
4. Shower the People - James Taylor
5. Pink Houses - John Mellencamp
6. My Country 'Tis of Thee - Crosby & Nash
7. One Love - Bob Marley
8. American Pie - Don McLean
9. Shout - The Isley Brothers
10. We Shall Be Free - Maria Muldaur
11. Higher Ground - Stevie Wonder
12. Pride - U2
13. City of Blinding Lights - U2
14. This Land is Your Land - Pete Seeger
15. America the Beautiful - Ray Charles
16. Waiting on the World to Change - John Mayer
17. Change - Keb' Mo'
18. Change the World - Eric Clapton
19. It's a New Day -

45 years later, the gender pay gap persists.

From today's Parade magazine . . . 

First, the bad news: The Equal Pay Act was approved in 1963, yet women still earn only about 78 cents on each dollar a male colleague makes.

Now, the better news: Congress is renewing its efforts to close the salary gap. Two bills are expected to be proposed soon - the Paycheck Fairness Act, which will force employers to justify pay differences and will enhance penalties for discrimination, and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which will override Ledbetter v. Goodyear, the Supreme Court ruling that says that women suing for equal pay must do so within 180 days of the beginning of the discrimination.

And here's a point I'm embarrassed to confess I've never pondered: The consequences of the wage gap continue long after a woman's actual work life ceases; if she's paid less, her Social Security payments and pension are lower, too.

And the hits just keep on coming . . .

Saturday, January 17, 2009

a hairy farewell.

Let's hear it for American ingenuity!

Thanks to the Huffington Post for coming across this hair-raising twist (*ouch!*) on all the Inauguration Day sales and specials being held in the great American tradition of "another excuse to try to make a buck."

This promo ad for New York City's Townhouse Spa and Beauty Bar, urging its target audience to "Say Good Bye to Mr. Bush" - your own personal "Mr. Bush" - with 40% off of a bikini or Brazilian wax, is definitely, um, bipartisan.

What do you know - eight years later, the guy's finally responsible for something positive for women.

[Incidentally: While I don't have a proper name for mine, I feel relatively sure it's a Ms. . . . ] ;D

Thursday, January 15, 2009

& so the inaugural lovefest begins.

Spoiler alert for my conservatively-inclined readers: As you might guess, I'm all ass-over-teakettle about next Tuesday's historic Presidential Inauguration, so I hope you'll forgive my utter gushing for the next five days or so. I'll do my best to alert you to Obamania-oriented postings via their headings, so you can avoid reading them at your choosing.

And so it begins . . .

Parade magazine apparently asked the President-elect to share what he wants for his children. Obama answered with the following open letter to his daughters:

Dear Malia and Sasha,

I know that you've both had a lot of fun these last two years on the campaign trail, going to picnics and parades and state fairs, eating all sorts of junk food your mother and I probably shouldn't have let you have. But I also know that it hasn't always been easy for you and Mom, and that as excited as you both are about that new puppy, it doesn't make up for all the time we've been apart. I know how much I've missed these past two years, and today I want to tell you a little more about why I decided to take our family on this journey.

When I was a young man, I thought life was all about me-about how I'd make my way in the world, become successful, and get the things I want. But then the two of you came into my world with all your curiosity and mischief and those smiles that never fail to fill my heart and light up my day. And suddenly, all my big plans for myself didn't seem so important anymore. I soon found that the greatest joy in my life was the joy I saw in yours. And I realized that my own life wouldn't count for much unless I was able to ensure that you had every opportunity for happiness and fulfillment in yours. In the end, girls, that's why I ran for President: because of what I want for you and for every child in this nation.

I want all our children to go to schools worthy of their potential-schools that challenge them, inspire them, and instill in them a sense of wonder about the world around them. I want them to have the chance to go to college-even if their parents aren't rich. And I want them to get good jobs: jobs that pay well and give them benefits like health care, jobs that let them spend time with their own kids and retire with dignity.

I want us to push the boundaries of discovery so that you'll live to see new technologies and inventions that improve our lives and make our planet cleaner and safer. And I want us to push our own human boundaries to reach beyond the divides of race and region, gender and religion that keep us from seeing the best in each other.

Sometimes we have to send our young men and women into war and other dangerous situations to protect our country-but when we do, I want to make sure that it is only for a very good reason, that we try our best to settle our differences with others peacefully, and that we do everything possible to keep our servicemen and women safe. And I want every child to understand that the blessings these brave Americans fight for are not free-that with the great privilege of being a citizen of this nation comes great responsibility.

That was the lesson your grandmother tried to teach me when I was your age, reading me the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence and telling me about the men and women who marched for equality because they believed those words put to paper two centuries ago should mean something.

She helped me understand that America is great not because it is perfect but because it can always be made better-and that the unfinished work of perfecting our union falls to each of us. It's a charge we pass on to our children, coming closer with each new generation to what we know America should be.

I hope both of you will take up that work, righting the wrongs that you see and working to give others the chances you've had. Not just because you have an obligation to give something back to this country that has given our family so much-although you do have that obligation. But because you have an obligation to yourself. Because it is only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential.

These are the things I want for you-to grow up in a world with no limits on your dreams and no achievements beyond your reach, and to grow into compassionate, committed women who will help build that world. And I want every child to have the same chances to learn and dream and grow and thrive that you girls have. That's why I've taken our family on this great adventure.

I am so proud of both of you. I love you more than you can ever know. And I am grateful every day for your patience, poise, grace, and humor as we prepare to start our new life together in the White House.

Love, Dad

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I scream, you scream, we all scream for . . .

. . . Ben & Jerry's Yes Pecan! ice cream!!

Get it? Yes Pee-can? Sounds like . . . Yes We Can (unless you're from Texas, where we pronounce it "puh-kahn")?

Yep, you got it - B&J's has introduced this special inaugural flavor this month in honor of our incoming President's rallying campaign cry.

According to Ben & Jerry's, Yes Pecan! is an "Inspirational Blend! Amber Waves of Buttery Ice Cream With Roasted Non-Partisan Pecans."

But delicious is just the tip of the ice-cream-berg . . . B&J's, not to be outdone as do-gooders, is offering an incentive to indulge: order some Yes Pecan! at one of the treat twosome's Scoop Shops during January, and Ben & Jerry's will donate the proceeds to the Common Cause Education Fund.

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, advocacy organization, founded to help citizens be heard in the political process and to hold elected leaders accountable. The Common Cause Education Fund conducts research, education and outreach activities.

Additionally, B&J's is contributing $1 to Common Cause for every person who either joins Common Cause or donates $1 to the organization.

Thanks go to my big sis for letting me in on this excellent excuse to enjoy something sweet and frozen for the upcoming festivities!!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

more hiney is more healthy.


Yes, ma'am. New research indicates a cushier tush is a sign of a healthier human.

For a while now, scientists have said being pear-shaped - storing extra fat in the buttocks, hips and thighs - is healthier for your heart than being apple-shaped - storing fat around the abdomen. Now, researchers (at Harvard Medical School, no less!) say it's not so much about where the fat is located on the body, but what kind of fat that makes the difference.

Fanny fat apparently releases beneficial hormones that help protect women from type 2 diabetes and other diseases.

So, in the inspirational words of Sir Mix-A-Lot, I say turn around, stick it out, shake that healthy butt!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

must-see tv news anchors.

My college buddy Scott Anderson shared the following link with me (thanks, Scott!), and it made my Wednesday. Put a smile on your face by checking out the synchronized commercial-break chair-dancing of WGN weekend anchors Robert Jordan and Jackie Bange, who clearly love what they do:


Monday, January 5, 2009

celebrate the everyday - january.

It's January, 2009. How will you celebrate being a woman?

January 6 (today!!) - Epiphany, or Women's Christmas
January 10 - Full moon [the Wolf Moon]
January 12National Clean Off Your Desk Day or Organize Your Home Day (whichever's doable for you)
January 16Nothing Day
January 20Inauguration Day (!!)
January 22Roe v. Wade Day
January 24National Compliment Day
January 25A Room of One's Own Day

Remember, where there is connection, there is power.
Where there is power, there is hope for change. For ourselves, and for our world.
We are all connected. We are all powerful.

Until my next post, be well, be happy & be hopeful.